Damn, Why Are Prescription Drugs So Expensive?

You might think that the U.S. government's small step towards a national health care system would somehow help bring the cost of prescription drugs down to reasonable levels. You could not be more wrong! You idiot!

In fact, prescription drugs—particularly the ones meant for relatively rare diseases—are just getting more and more and more and more expensive. There are reasons for this beyond "the free market at work," which, in this case, might be translated as "people who dying will pay anything to not die." Industry consolidation always conspires to drive up prices (Pfizer's $100 billion bid for AstraZeneca will surely make this much worse, so you have that to look forward to); Medicare is not allowed to directly negotiate lower prices; and drug companies always scramble to squeeze as much profit as possible out of their products before they go generic. Still, as Bloomberg reports today, generic drugs don't seem to be bringing spending under control: total drug spending has risen by almost $30 billion in the U.S. the past five years, and the rising prices of non-generic drugs more than offset the declining prices of drugs that go generic. It all adds up to things like this:

Starting prices for new drugs are escalating as well. Today, a cholesterol-lowering treatment for certain rare cases costs $311,000 a year and a cystic fibrosis medicine — developed partly with funding from a charity — costs $300,000 annually. Fifteen cancer drugs introduced in the last five years cost more than $10,000 a month, according to data from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Analysts, meanwhile, predict the first $1 million drug treatment may be just around the corner.

Death is the right move, economically.

[Photo: AP]